French Socialists want to intensify left-right divide in EU Parliament

French Socialist PArty

The French Socialist Party is torn on its future direction within Europe. [Photolyse/Flickr]

The French Socialist delegation to the EU calls for talks with the European left. It wants to bring the left back onto the main stage by ensuring a deep political divide between it and the right. EURACTIV France reports.

Opposition to the French government has been on the rise, even within the Socialist Party’s own ranks. This could have repercussions in the European Parliament. The Socialist Party’s delegation of 13 MEPs has called on the Socialist Party’s national bureau (June 10) in France to rally together the European left.

The delegation has already discussed the future President of the European Commission. The Élysée has called for the democratic process to prevail, and supports Jean-Claude Juncker, but the MEPs advocate for talks with other left-wing movements in the European Parliament in order to find common ground.

“The Council should not act like the Congress of Vienna”

“We campaigned that the party that comes out on top in the European Parliament will be the President of the European Commission. However, the Council chose Herman Van Rompuy to lead talks on forming a majority, not Jean-Claude Juncker. The European Council should not act like the Congress of Vienna, as it is blocking the institutions,” warned Pervenche Berès, President of France’s Socialist delegation to the European Parliament.

The MEPs argue that the process is less transparent than people think. The provisional election of Martin Schulz at the head of the social-democrats in the European Parliament, June 18, seems like a sure thing.

Left-right divide

Some go even further, and have point blank refused to vote for Jean-Claude Juncker. “Our voters struggle to understand how we can negotiate directly with the EPP, after having campaigned against neo-liberalism,” said French MEP Guillaume Balas, who believes that the Socialist Party’s main priority should be to form a left-wing majority in the European Parliament.

The Greens (52 MEPs), the far-left (45), and the social democrats (190) combine to make a total of 287 MEPs, which is nowhere near the required absolute majority (376). The European People’s Party (EPP) is isolated, despite having secured 221 seats. The Eurosceptic Finns Party and the Danish People’s Party have joined the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which jeopardises any potential agreement between the two European political groups, whilst the centrist ALDE group is still on the fence.

“We must try to change the direction of Europe! If the left cannot form a majority, it should be a strong opposition force,” said Guillaume Balas.

This goes against the political norm in Strasbourg. In the past, the Socialist Party formed coalitions with the EPP by dividing up Europe’s top jobs, such as the commissioner portfolios, and by splitting the presidency of the Parliament. This is how Martin Schulz became president for two and a half years.

However, “yesterday’s ways are over. We cannot remain “cosy” in the European Parliament. Especially now that half of those elected are nationalists. They will watch proceedings and reproach us for representing the “UMPs,” said Guillaume Balas.

“They would be right! In order to prevent this, we must promote a real political divide between the right and the left. Even if this means not getting the 376 seat majority in the European Parliament, which is a ridiculous rule,” he added.

Afflicted Socialists

Many schools of thought have emerged within the French Socialist Party. Guillaume Balas is Secretary General of Un Monde d’Avance (“A forward moving world”), a club within the Socialist Party. Liem Hoang Ngoc, former French MEP and member of the same club, launched a new group called Socialistes Affligés (“Afflicted Socialists”).

The group is open to all of the French left, including the Greens, the Socialist and the Far-left. Important French politicians like Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Pierre Laurent, Eva Joly, Gérard Filoche and Pouria Amirshai have already joined.

“It is not a new idea, but it has become urgent. We have opened our doors to all those who want to fight governmental politics,” said Liem Hoang Ngoc. According to Philippe Marlière, co-founder of the group, the Socialist Party’s stance is not safe when confronted with the rise of the National Front.

>> Read:  Interview with Philippe Marlière (FR)

How to cope with the rise of the far-right?

The question of what kind of approach is necessary to tackle the far-right has been a dividing force for the French left. In Jean-Christophe Cambadelis’ office, preparations are underway for Manuel Valls’ bid to become France’s next president in 2017.

“We cannot have a right-wing candidate for a left-wing party!” said Liem Hoang Ngoc. That was echoed by Guillaume Balas, who is worried that Marine Le Pen’s ideas will start to run French political life. “You know we have a problem when Laurent Wauquiez criticises Europe, or when François Hollande declares in the wake of the European elections that Europe should withdraw from areas where it is not necessary,” stated the MEP.

Despite a rise in anti-European parties, political balances remained broadly unchanged in the European Parliament following the elections held between 22 and 25 May, with the centre-right and centre-left parties on track for a grand coalition.

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) won 221 seats in the European parliament, followed by the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), with 189 seats (out of 751).

In the last European election, the EPP won 265 seats and the S&D 184. The Parliament was slightly larger at the time, counting a total of 766 seats.

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